Marcel Van der Watt

Director, Research Institute

Marcel Van der Watt

Director, Research Institute

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Marcel van der Watt is the Director of the Research Institute at the National Center on Sexual Exploitation in Washington D.C. He is an internationally accoladed investigative and research professional with 20 years’ experience in combating the interspersing criminal economies of organized crime, human trafficking, and sexual exploitation. His cumulative experience as a former human trafficking police investigator, human trafficking case manager, and hostage and suicide negotiator, continues to inform his work. Marcel has consulted in and provided expert court testimony in several sex trafficking cases, briefed members of the US Congress on issues related to online criminality and engaged with both the Presidency and the Multi-Party Women’s Caucus in South Africa’s Parliament on matters related to implicit harms-, myths-, and laws associated with the sex trade.

Marcel received numerous awards for his contribution to both human trafficking police investigations and his research into the crime. This includes a commendation by E. Benjamin Skinner, fellow at the Harvard Kennedy School CARR CENTER for Human Rights Policy (in 2010), a position in the Top 35 under 35 Africans awarded by the Young People in International Affairs (in 2014), and the Influential Scholar Award by the 17th Annual International Human Trafficking and Social Justice Conference (in 2020). Marcel is currently serving a second term as Executive Committee member of the Global Association of Human Trafficking Scholars (GAHTS) and is an observer on INTERPOL’s Human Trafficking Expert Group (HTEG).

Most recently (2020 –2022), Marcel was part of a research team that completed a two-year research project into the nature and scope of trafficking in persons in South Africa. He was also the sole author of a technical report that focused on prevalence insights from the criminal justice system. The project stemmed from a sub-award through Purdue University/LASER PULSE in association with the USAID-funded Long-Term Assistance and Services for Research Award (7200AA18CA00009 LASER) and represented a collaboration between USAID/Southern Africa, USAID/LAB/CDR, and the Department of Science and Innovation (DSI), South Africa. Marcel is well-versed in the use of Atlas.ti, a sophisticated qualitative data analysis software package that enables the use of “intuitive research tools and best-in-class technology” to uncover actionable insights from a variety of literature sources. He remains an active research fellow at the Centre for Human Rights at the University of the Free State in South Africa.

Why I Do This Work:

During my experience in this movement, I’ve come to realize that dignity and freedom for many, remain flagrantly fleeting. The resilience of survivors, my faith in Christ, and my journey as both practitioner and researcher inform my belief that a world free from sexual abuse and exploitation is possible.

Articles from Marcel Van der Watt: